Have you ever created an Excel chart where the labels stretch out to infinity or are incomplete so you can’t read them? I’ve got a couple of tricks for you, which I’ll lay out here and in this short video on my YouTube channel.

Example bar chart with long labels

Wrapping Labels

It’s easy to get your labels to wrap onto multiple lines so they fit and are readable. Let’s say you have a simple data set of the population of large cities in the United States. Instead of having them stick out to the left of the chart, you’d like to wrap them on two lines, with the city above and the state below.

Simply place your cursor in the formula bar where you want to add the break and press the ALT+ENTER keys. Hit ENTER again, and you’ll see the text wrap on two lines. You now have the text arranged the way you like it in the spreadsheet and in the graph.

Get text on two lines in Excel by using ALT+ENTER keyboard combination
Bar chart example with labels on two lines

Aligning Labels

In this simple example, notice how the labels are centered for each city, which doesn’t look terrific—the alignment for San Antonio, for example, looks off. Ideally, we could just hit the text alignment buttons in the Home tab and be done, but for some reason, Excel doesn’t allow that.

Well, here’s a little trick:

  • Copy your graph
  • Open PowerPoint and Paste the graph. Don’t worry about the slide size or anything, just paste it in.
  • Select the axis you want to format and select the Format option in the Paragraph menu.
  • In the ensuing menu, select the Right option in the Alignment drop-down menu. Now, ideally, we’d be able to align the text to the left and everything would be nicely aligned along the left edge, but it aligns to the left within each label, so it doesn’t look great, as you can see in the first image below.
Aligning the text to the left results in uneven alignment
Aligning the text to the right looks better
  • Now, copy the graph and paste back into Excel. The data will come along with it. And that’s it.

Now you have well-aligned labels in your chart. If you’d like to see these steps in a video, check out my YouTube channel or watch the video below.